Friday, October 4, 2019

The Art of Compassion

This week it was my pleasure to host a CPR class for our company's emergency response team.  This team is comprised of employees from various departments.  We do not pay them an extra salary, nor do we force anyone to become responders.  We simply open the training up to those people who want to help their fellow man in a time of need.

The response that I receive is one part inspiring, and one part depressing.  On one hand, there are the 10% of the employee population that eagerly raises their hands.  They know that they could be faced with a situation of dire and critical need, such as a severe injury or a heart attack.  Yet they have an inner compassion to protect human life.  I'm very proud of that 10%.

The saddest part is the 90% of those who are not interested in helping their fellow man in the time of crisis.  Perhaps I'm judging these folks too harshly, but many of the reasons behind their reluctance is simply a shield for apathy.  I had folks tell me that they cannot deal with "blood and guts" very well.  Who among us does??  I explain that being an emergency response person can also mean helping to obtain supplies, call 9-1-1, direct ambulances, crowd control, and other non "blood and guts" activities.  They still won't be bothered and I certainly can't force them.

My guess is that this 10%-90% ration is pretty indicative of many other things.  For instance, its common knowledge that 90% of volunteer work done for a church is performed by 10% of the congregation.  Imagine if those numbers were made to be an even 50% split what a difference would be made in our world in general.  

I believe we have come to accept that compassion is the exception instead of the rule.  We need to ask ourselves why this has happened.  Is it because society has decided that it is "too busy" to worry about the problems of others?  Is it because we have watched "leaders" who have shown themselves to openly insult, degrade, and demean others that we have accepted this as the norm?  And how much of this apathy has been adopted by our children, thus further watering compassion down for the next generation?

I'm always shocked when I'm in a class where the question is asked "how many of you are organ donors?", and only half or less of the hands go up.  It's a personal choice...yes.  But I cannot, for the life of me, think of a valid reason not to do it.  To me, this should be an absolute no-brainer.  If I die suddenly I want for others to benefit from my organs.  If I can help a blind person see, a burn victim with new skin, give an organ to someone desperately needing one, or veins for a person needing them, sign me up!  I've actually heard people say "I don't want to have someone butcher me up after I'm dead".  You're D-E-A-D...vanity should really stop there.

Raising my children has taught me many lessons in compassion.  For Tyler, we had to learn to see the world through his eyes and understand his fears and anxieties.  Even when he was being aggressive, we had to have compassion for what caused these behaviors within him.  Compassion was also a key element in how we judged the performance of a physician or medical provider.  We expected compassion from schools, buses, nurses, and anyone else who worked with Tyler.  We considered this the most minimum skill that they had to possess.

Sam is a different story.  She is a very compassionate person who has her feelings hurt when others do not treat her in kind.  Even as a smaller child, I would see her act in kind ways toward others.  I remember when she was about 5 we were at a zoo where you could feed some animals.  While other kids were jockeying to get to the best spot, Sam spotted a little girl without feed.  She asked if she could give the little girl some of hers.  I'd like to believe this was all from things I have taught her, but I know much of it is just naturally in her heart.

Lets try to remember, today and every day, that compassion is the door that opens up so many other things.  When we show compassion first, so much other great things will follow.  But unless we can grow that 10%, I think we will continue to struggle as a society.

Be well and God bless.     Tom

Friday, September 27, 2019

Tragedy in Florida

I just saw a story on social media about an 87-year-old grandmother who murdered her disabled grandson.  She was afraid of what would happen to him once she was no longer able to provide care for him.

It would be easy to pass judgement and say "how could someone do that to their own grandson?", but there is a lot to consider here.  Think about the incredible amount of failure that has to lead up to an event like this one.

The disabled man did not have parents who could care for him.  His father had died and his mother was estranged from him.  He lived at a group home during the week and was cared for on the weekends by his grandmother.  

The system must also share some responsibility.  We continually hear about the elimination of benefits for disabled adults.  We also pay caregivers a pitiful salary to care for people who need the most support.  This leads to high rates of turnover and substandard care.  The substandard care easily lends itself to turn into neglect and abuse.

Science shares a slice of the blame pie.  As I've stated in other posts, we have become adept at keeping people breathing, but have fallen woefully short matching that with tools for better quality of life.  

Perhaps grandma knows of instances of institutional abuse, or perhaps the history of the family is so sordid that he would suffer at their hands.  Whatever the case, elements around her caused her to believe that he would be better off in the arms of God than here on earth.  It isn't her choice to make, and I do not support her decision, but I can't condemn her.

If I were old and about to leave this earth, and someone showed me a crystal ball of Tyler being abused and neglected after I was gone, I'd have to think long and hard before leaving him that way.  I'm not sure that most special needs parents wouldn't feel the same way.

Its also heartbreaking to think of how the judicial system will have to decipher this.  She committed murder, and that cannot be ignored.  Hopefully she can be confined to a hospital for her remaining days as opposed to a jail cell.  Maybe the strain of caring for him became too much and she has a medically explainable loss of reasoning.  

It is heartbreaking, but also largely preventable.  To do that we must be willing to look at these failures and be willing to offer more avenues of care for disabled adults.  Within this I also make the same appeal for disabled veterans.  We have to listen very hard to this woman and understand her fears before we can understand the mind of the aging caregiver.  I'm just not sure we have the empathy it takes to do this anymore.

Be well and God bless.   Tom  

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Return of Matty

A few weeks ago I wrote about a terrific young man named Matty.  I hadn't had the pleasure of running into him for a couple of weeks.  Lunchtime is a lot better when cross paths with him.  His attitude and open heart in infectious.

I needed to fill up the gas tank today so I stopped into the local food and gas mart.  As I stood in the checkout line, in walked Matty and his caregiver.  It only took a minute for him to have me laughing.  "Hey this guy is following me around" he said as I shook his hand.  He said they were going to eat there because "I gotta give McDonalds a break!"  He said his goodbyes and bounced on to the next thing.

The cashier commented what a pleasant young man Matty is.  I agreed and said he was one of the most special people in this world.  After all, he has a positive nature that isn't fake or done for show.  He displays a simplistic and natural regard for others, which is a rare and special quality.  

I shared the blog address with his caregiver.  She seemed a little puzzled at first but I think once she sees the blog she will remember that Matty and Tyler have things in common.  I told her that there was an entry about my meeting Matty and being so inspired by him.  He smiled and thanked me again.

Its me that owes thanks to him....for being such a rare and special person that can change the trajectory of my day with a simple laugh together.

Be well and God bless.   Tom


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sam Update

A quick update on my post from yesterday.  Unfortunately, Sam was not elected to student Senate.  As it turned out, she was among eight students who were running.  The good news is, she was seemingly ok when I arrived home.  She said she was disappointed, and she blamed me for writing a bad speech, but that she was fine.

We told her how proud we were of her for trying and being willing to pursue something she believed in.  We will take her out for pizza tonight to her favorite restaurant in the world to celebrate.  Maybe she didn't win for student Senate, but she is a winner in our hearts every time she does the right thing.

Be well and God bless.   Tom

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Thinking of Sam Today

You have seen my daughter, Sam, express her thoughts here on the blog.  Well, today I am thinking about her as she attempts a new endeavor.  

Sam came home last week and asked if she could run for student Senate at school.  She was very excited as she explained that she feels like she is a good leader and would be good at voicing the needs of her class.  Her idea was to represent things that everyone could enjoy, regardless of social stature.  She wants a beautiful and all-inclusive school for everyone.  We encouraged her to run and to win!  I asked her what she wanted her speech to say, and helped her put the words together.

Last night came around and she had an emotional meltdown right before bed.  She was afraid she was going to be the one person that wouldn't get elected.  She was afraid that she wouldn't get any votes because she isn't one of the most popular girls.  She was afraid of looking like a fool with nobody raising their hand for her.

I told her how I had been there many times.  In fact, she is braver than I am because I wouldn't have had the guts to run for anything back during my school days.  With years of experience I have come to realize that its more about what I believe in myself than what the masses believe.  But I'm 49, not 10 and trying to find my way.  It occurred to me that the advice I was giving her is true for so many things.  Some of us face tremendous challenges where fear has a grip on us, some of us are caring for loved ones who are facing those challenges and fears, and some of us are trying to navigate even these types of small disasters.  I said...

You know in your heart that you will be great.  You know you want it for the right reasons.  You go in there with your chin up.  Stand there and give the best speech we've got and do it with your chin up.  When the votes are counted, you keep your chin up, win or lose.  If you win, be gracious to those who didn't.  If you lose, be gracious to those who did, and keep your chin up.  Its ok to be disappointed in the result, but don't be disappointed that you were brave enough to try.  Only 3 students in the class dared to try, and that alone makes them all winners.

Of course I'm hoping that when I get home she is walking on clouds.  It would be a great lesson to never sell herself short and to strive for goals that even she isn't sure she can reach.  I'm obviously not wanting to go home to a pile of sobbing 10-year-old.  That lesson will have to be to never give up, especially when you believe you can make a difference.

Either way, my heart goes out to her because I am so proud that she is the kind of person deep down that wants to stand up and be heard, especially for people that can't do it for themselves.  In many ways, its a path of incredible satisfaction and disappointment.  Let's see which one I'm going home to today...

Ahhh....the joys of being a Dad!

Be well and God bless.   Tom